Eclectic characters struggle with fluctuating careers and relationships in this collection of short stories.
When an unemployed English teacher in “Content Moderator” is desperate for work, an old high school friend has a job for her. But evaluating disturbing online images and videos that people have reported may be more than the unnamed narrator can handle. Seemingly innocuous individuals in Wright’s (Table Manners, 2017) powerful book often find themselves in arduous circumstances. In “Lean into the Mic,” for example, Amanda has been performing amateur stand-up comedy for two years. But the perpetually anxious woman isolates herself from others, compounding her already precarious marriage. Similarly, Angela, the titular, self-professed “Major Prude,” is nonplussed when her wilder friend Carla and her roommate/stepbrother, Liam, hook up. But the aftermath may threaten her relationships with both. These profound tales typically showcase resilient characters. Chrissie, in “Uncle Harris,” faces off against her estranged father’s brother, who she believes is plotting to take away her younger siblings. In the title story, a mandatory work event (a “talk” on dealing with negativity) is an opportunity for a woman to come to terms with her brother’s recent fatal overdose. The author fills the pages with indelible prose and wry humor: Emily of “The Emilies” believes certain friendships are “as dutiful and potentially pointless as washing dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.” Nevertheless, even the more comedic tales don’t forgo character insight. “Love Lasts Forever but a Tattoo Lasts Longer” features a decidedly unromantic wedding—near a prison visitation room with a priest who smells of hot dogs. But the bride may prefer that her new husband stay in jail (“I’ll know where he is every second”). The final work, “Them,” is the collection’s highlight. In it, Kate is shocked to learn that her lesbian best friend, Taylor, now identifies as genderqueer and goes by the pronoun they. The absorbing story earnestly examines both Kate and Taylor, as the two must decide how this change will impact their lifelong friendship.
Potent, unforgettable tales and razor-sharp writing.